President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday gave the New People’s Army (NPA) a Saturday afternoon deadline to also declare a truce after a rebel attack on militiamen on Wednesday, two days following the Chief Executive’s pronouncement of a unilateral ceasefire.
He gave the ultimatum during his visit at the 60th Infantry Battalion headquarters in Barangay Doña Andrea, Asuncion to visit the wake of the militiaman slain in the ambush by NPA in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte.
Duterte also said he is extending his deadline for the NPA to give its side on the attack upon the request of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison.
Duterte warned that if the NPA would not reciprocate the government’s ceasefire and not give a justifiable reason for the attack, he would have no other course but to retract the truce declaration.
The members of the CAFGU Active Auxilliary (CAA) were on their way back to their camp in Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong, Davao del Norte on Wednesday morning when they were attacked.
One CAA member was killed while four others were wounded.
The military said that the CAAs were going back to their camp in compliance with the unilateral ceasefire declared by the President during his State of the Nation Address last July 25.
According to the 10th Infantry Battalion, the CAAs were already several days out of their camp on security patrol when the ceasefire was declared.
But according to the NPA’s Comval (Compostela Valley) North Davao South Agusan Subregional Command spokesperson Aris Francisco, they just “thwarted a military offensive” in adherence to the directive by the NPA National Operations Command for Red fighters to maintain on alert status and on active defense mode in response to the President’s unilateral ceasefire.
In a press statement, Francisco said that the Civilian Auxilliary Force Geographical Unit (CAFGU) of the 72nd Infantry Battalion and armed Alamara paramilitary troops have been on active operation in Kapalong, resulting in several engagements including its July 5 ambush that wounded one rebel.
“Determined to continue its offensive military operations in Kapalong, the same troops ignored the ceasefire declaration of their Commander in Chief and again took off for combat operation from their detachment in Barangay Patil on July 26,” Francisco said in the statement.
The NPA accused the AFP of deceiving their Commander-in-Chief by saying that the NPA violated the unilateral ceasefire when it waylaid the PDOP (Peace & Development Outreach Program) troops who were returning to their detachment in Sitio Patil, Barangay Gupitan.
The rebel group said that had they not taken the initiative to actively defend itself by intercepting the 72nd IB/Alamara troops, the operating AFP troops would have carried out its own combat action and inflicted damage against the NPA unit.
The NPA maintained that it will abide with the spirit of the resumption of the peace negotiations in addressing the roots of the civil war, respects the ceasefire order of President Duterte, and strictly adheres to the directive of the national leadership and the CPP.
It may be recalled that during his visit to the Southern Luzon Command of the AFP in Lucena, Quezon, Mr. Duterte said he already sought a leftist congressman as well as peace negotiator Silvestre Bello III to send his warning to the NPA and the National Democratic Front and the Communist Party of the Philippines to respect the unilateral ceasefire or they might as well go back to fighting in the mountains.
The President said he does not want the rebel group to be taking advantage of the unilateral ceasefire as an opportunity to attack government forces like what happened in Davao del Norte.
The President initially gave the NPA until midnight on Thursday to give its side on the incident or he will back out from the peace talks.
“Are we into this truce or are we not? Give me an answer until tonight otherwise balik tayo sa away (we go back to fighting),” Duterte said.
Also present during the President’s visit in Asuncion were MGen Raphael Valencia of the 10th ID, Davao del Norte Gov. Antonio Rafael del Rosario, New Corella Mayor Rodora Alcoran, Kapalong Mayor Ma. Theresa Timbol, and tribal leaders from Barangay Gupitan, Kapalong. (Lilian C. Mellejor/PNA)